Conflict & Justice

Libya's prime minister was kidnapped, released, and no one is sure why


Libya's Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, during a news conference after he was released by kidnappers, Thursday. Many Libyans are frustrated with the militias who compete for power in Libya, says Abigail Hauslohner of the Washington Post, and Zeidan's inability to control them.


REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

The Libyan Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, was abducted at gunpoint overnight from a luxury hotel in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. A few hours later, he was released unharmed. 

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

But it's not clear what happened, and who did it, or why.

Early speculation centered on a militia group allied to the government, the Revolutionary Operations Room. Its Facebook page suggested it was responsible, and it was angry at Prime Minister Zeidan for allegedly giving tacit approval to the US to seize al-Qaeda suspect Abu Anas al-Liby last weekend.

"There's a lot of anger in Libya at Zeidan about that," says Abigail Hauslohner, Cairo bureau chief for the Washington Post.  

The militia has since denied involvement, but Hauslohner says suspicions continue about its involvement. The militia has a government contract to provide security to certain parts of Tripoli, which would have allowed them to move about the city at will with firearms.

The incident is unsettling Libyans.

"Libya has been completely lawless since the overthrow of Gaddafi [in 2011]," says Hauslohner, and is full of revolutionary militias, large and small, "competing to have their voices heard".  Ordinary Libyans are very frustrated with the militias, but the government remains too weak to deal with them.

After he was freed, Zeidan thanked those who'd made his release possible and called for calm, but didn't name his abductors.